Saturday, August 23, 2008

Why Don't We Live Together

Why don't we live together
takin' life's rocky ride
Side by side
Sailin' thru stormy weather
Searchin' for sunny skies
with open eyes
Sharin' the tears and the laughter is the only way

I hate election years. There are so many ads for one candidate or another every other second it makes you sick of the whole barking lot of them. I actually look forward to something mundane like a tampon commercial or an old rerun of The Cosby Show. And I don't want to deal with red white and blue until July 4.

I wouldn't think of blogging on that thought except that Barry had joined a number of other Hollywood personalities in a music-video-styled ad. ( This is a nice video because it conveys a message of togetherness rather than demonizing those who think differently than they do.

This is only the second time that I've seen Barry openly express a specific political preference. (The first was in his concert during the 60s set.) You hear clips here and there of about supporting a political candidate or cause from another source but never from Barry or his publicist or Stiletto directly.

I can only imagine that this would be a huge conflict for someone who takes every step to keep his private life private. You want to be an ordinary citizen and do what you can to support your favorite candidate or party, but in order to do that, you have to give up some of that privacy you usually protect. The public face and the private man intersect very clearly and there's no hiding it once you decide to participate in that way. Barry doesn't seem to wear his politics on his sleeve, unlike some of his contemporaries.

In North Georgia, many local communities have to deal with politics very carefully. Within the past couple of years, some communities have voted to incorporate into cities, separate from their county because they believe the county government is unwilling or unable to meet needs they feel are important. So they establish themselves as townships or cities to bring those decisions into their own hands.

So with a new city, you need a new government. That means people are going to run for office. Friends and neighbors will be competing for however many seats there are. You can't have a successful city with the slash-and-burn, nuclear-anihilation technique of the national campaigns. We live in the same subdivisions. Our children play together and go to the same schools. We attend local houses of worship. Even if we're not all in the same church or synagogue or whatever, the clergy all know each other too! We're all a variety of races, sexual orientations, ethnicities, religions, marital and family status, political parties, and creeds. Yet we get coffee in the same Starbucks, breakfast at J. Christopher's and our groceries at the same Publix. We have to live together.

Fortunately most of the citizens in these new cities have figured out that for the venture to be successful, they have to be very civil, no matter how passionate you feel about your position or qualifications. Make no mistake, this political, competitive scenario brings out everyone's true colors. Someone is going to take a campaign tack that rubs someone the wrong way. If someone behaves immaturely, everyone will know about it in a day or two. We're all learning new things about each other that we may not have otherwise. Most have decided to not overreact if everything they learn is not to their liking. Those who do overreact or carry on a negative campaign or play the "holier than thou" card are going to end up alienating themselves from their neighbors.

So you see, it is possible. The key is to see each other as human beings and not Satan Incarnate even when at opposite political poles. That's much easier when it's a small group in close proximity. When you can't see the people who are different from you, it's easy to dismiss or demonize them. Tolerance is a big buzzword in some political circles; but it's easy to fancy yourself as "tolerant" when you don't know anyone who is different than you in some significant way.

The Manilow Network flared up recently over what boiled down to a personality conflict. With Barry's appearance in a political video and the usual passions naturally stirred in a presidential election year, it won't be the last time. I guess the "Half of Talking" post wasn't taken to heart. Oh well.

The Network is a cyberspace "town" if you will. Barry and TPTB at Stiletto are a key part of it, even if they are not involved in the day-to-day fan interactions. You have people gathering together with their own perspectives and likes and often people find something in common with at least someone. Political opinions are going to come out, like it or lump it. Some people are going to get their facts wrong on one subject or another. The way to not handle it is to knee-jerk and spew via good ole Keyboard Courage. We're all equal. No one is so high and mighty that they will eternally receive approval for all of their words or actions, and even the most hated person in the world still has friends.

Here are some more ideas on navigating this imminent minefield:

  1. Opinions and ideas are not "dangerous". They may offend your sensitibilities, but that offense is merely an opinion too. Only actions can determine whether a person is truly a danger, not sociopolitical rhetoric.
  2. A solid opinion or point of view can stand on its own even in the harsh light of a different one. If you are so sure of your moral high ground, there is no need to avoid people who think and speak differently than you. Find some other common ground. If you're both human beings, there has to be something in common somewhere.
  3. Pick your battles. Not every mention of a political opinion or religious preference is a declaration of war. Nor do they always warrant a counter-point. Don't create a conflict if you don't need to. There are plenty of other things to talk about, especially on the Manilow Network.
  4. Being respectful of someone else's opinion may be the first step in bringing them around to your way of thinking. Respectful means not name-calling or questioning someone's intelligence because of their political party or voting history. You don't have to drill someone a new asshole to defend your POV. Minds open when they feel they're not under attack.
  5. Act like an adult. Refusing to share space with someone or being afraid to accidentally touch them because of their political POV is akin to a 6-year-old who believes in cooties. If you're acting like a child your opinion can't be that intelligent. Grow up.
  6. If someone approaches you with a different POV with respect and intelligence, have the courage to hear them out. They may have a good point you hadn't considered. It will help you strengthen your own perspective and your own convictions in ways you never imagined.
  7. Be patient, even with yourself. No one is perfect and no one behaves perfectly all the time. If you act like a brat when expressing an opinion, admit it and keep it moving. If you try to excuse bad behaviour away, or sweep it under the rug, or try to spin it you'll alienate even your friends. Don't think that people forget that, either. They may not talk about the incident all the time, but they WILL remember it. Just admit that you had a lapse and didn't live up to the tolerance you normally proclaim. Then the mistake will truly disappear and you will earn respect 10 times over, even from those who disagree with your opinion.
Does that sound like a lot? It isn't. It's only the Golden Rule ("Do unto others...") that appears in some form in every last one of the world's major religions. Unfortunately, I recently began avoiding political discussions not because of another person's opinion, but because I'm afraid of what they will do to me because of mine. That's not a small concern when the emotional investment in someone is high.

You'll notice I didn't reveal my own political party or opinion. On this post, it's irrelevant. All parties and their members are guilty of being assholes at one time or another and that is the point.

The fan dynamics I talked about in "Every Rainbow" have begun on the Network with the revelation of the political video. You know, how once people realize what the "star's" perspective is on something (politics in this case) people who hold the same POV are openly chatting, and others are strangely quiet. I pray it doesn't get out of hand and kill off the new community.

Come on, people - remember "Be Nice"? Now is the time.

Why don't we live together
whether loves lives or dies
At least we know we tried

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